Rambling Soldier (I), The
DESCRIPTION: Soldier (sailor) describes the joys of rambling the countryside (of England): "I once was a seaman stout and bold, Ofttimes I plowed the ocean... For honor and promotion." In some versions he brags that he has a license to ramble, granted by the king.
EARLIEST DATE: before 1839 (broadside, Bodleian Johnson Ballads 256); c. 1817 (Reeves-Circle broadside transcription)
KEYWORDS: rambling nonballad sailor soldier injury
FOUND IN: US(SE) Britain(England(Lond,South),Scotland(Aber)) Australia
REFERENCES (12 citations):
BrownIII 367, "The Jolly Soldier" (1 fragment plus mention of 1 more)
BrownSchinhanV 367, "The Jolly Soldier" (1 tune plus a text excerpt)
Morris, #235, "Billy, the Rambling Soldier" (1 text)
Sharp-100E 43, "The Rambling Sailor" (1 text, 1 tune)
Butterworth/Dawney, p. 36, "The Rambling Sailor" (1 text, 1 tune)
Wiltshire-WSRO Mi 684, "Rambling Sailor" (1 text)
Reeves-Circle 109, "The Rambling Sailor" (2 texts)
RoudBishop #16, "Rambling Sailor" (1 text, 1 tune)
Meredith/Anderson, pp. 174-175, "The Rambling Sailor" (1 text, 1 tune)
GreigDuncan7 1477, "The Rovin' Sailor" (3 texts, 2 tunes)
Ord, p. 326, "Dicky Johnston, or, The Roving Sailor" (1 short text)
DT, RAMBSAIL* (RMBSAIL2*)
Chris Willett, "The Rambling Sailor" (on Voice12)
Bodleian, Johnson Ballads 256, "The Rambling Sailor" ("I am a sailor stout and bold, long time I have ploughed the ocean"), J. Catnach (London), 1813-1838; also Firth c.12(275), Johnson Ballads 1230, Harding B 11(1670), Firth b.25(378), Harding B 11(3226), Harding B 11(4288), Harding B 15(250b), Johnson Ballads 966, Johnson Ballads 559, Harding B 20(142), Firth b.34(302), "[The] Rambling Sailor"; Harding B 11(3228), "The Rambling Soldier" ("I am a soldier blithe and gay"), W. and T. Fordyce (Newcastle), 1832-1842; Firth b.26(329), Harding B 11(835), Harding B 16(221a), Harding B 11(3227), Harding B 15(251a), Harding B 15(251b), Harding B 15(252a), Harding B 20(143), Harding B 17(251a), "Rambling Soldier"
cf. "The Rambling Comber"
NOTES: Sharp notes that on the older broadsides, the rambler was a soldier; in the newer ones, he is a sailor. - PJS
Sharp may be right about which version is the older. The Bodleian broadsides give no clear-cut answer; however, Harding B 16(221a), "Rambling Soldier" lists the tune as "Rambling Sailor"; it also lists the author as John Morgan. - BS
In Brown's version (which is only two stanzas), it appears that he is a sailor who later enlists in the American Revolutionary army. This may be a rewrite, but the text it too short to be sure.
Ord's text says that the sailor has been granted a license to beg *because he has lost a limb.* Ordinarily I would consider this a significant enough distinction to split the songs, but the rest is the same; the lost limb appears (or fails to appear, perhaps) in only a single line. Perhaps a mixture with something like "The Forfar Soldier," or even a case of an injured veteran adopting the piece to his own case? - RBW
Last updated in version 4.1
Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography
The Ballad Index Copyright 2016 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.